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Fire in the Belly: On Being a Man Paperback – March 1, 1992

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (March 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553351370
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553351378
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #52,981 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The new male that Keen envisions is neither devoted careerist nor self-absorbed New Age guy nor cool, detached "post-modern man." He is husbandman and steward of the earth--strong, vulnerable, with a capacity for moral outrage, empathy and wonder--whose right livelihood is consonant with ecological awareness. Consulting editor of Psychology Today , Keen ( Faces of the Enemy ) argues that men must define their identities by severing themselves from women as approval-giving mother figures and as the ancient Goddess who continues to exert power within the male psyche's hidden recesses. Going beyond the modern rites of manhood--alienating work, war, performance-oriented sex--the new male "psychonaut" brings forth meaning by undertaking "a spiritual journey into the self." Men--and women--will be enriched by the uncommon insights in Keen's speculative primer.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

It would be too simplistic to characterize this book as a treatise on male liberation, for Keen goes farther in categorizing male and female traits than do many other books on the subject. Many readers may even find his discussion in the chapter "It's a Woman's World" disquieting. Keen argues that if the old gender/sex differentiations are wrong, so are modern unisex approaches. The difference between men and women is more than biological. Keen does not articulate the difference, however, calling it a mystery. Describing what being a man has historically meant, he argues forcefully that we need a new understanding, one that he hopes his book will help form. Challenging, well written, recommended, and definitely not for men only.
- John Moryl, Yeshiva Univ. Lib., New York
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

SAM KEEN'S VITA I was over educated at Harvard and Princeton and was a professor of philosophy and religion at various legitimate institutions for 20 years before becoming a contributing editor of Psychology Today, a freelance thinker, lecturer, seminar leader and consultant. I am the author of a bakers dozen books, a co-producer of an award winning PBS documentary, Faces of the Enemy. My work was the subject of a 60 minute PBS special Bill Moyers-Your Mythic Journey with Sam Keen.

When not writing or traveling around the world lecturing and doing seminars on a wide range of topics on which I am not necessarily an expert but a skilled explorer, I fiddle with growing things on my farm in the hills above Sonoma, and practice the flying trapeze.

Customer Reviews

Recommended reading for any man OR woman.
T. Berry
Our nature to get things done; through reason or violence, is really just the crying of inner little boy wanting his mother.
Benny Hill jr
An amazingly well written book, broad in scope and deep in thought.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

215 of 237 people found the following review helpful By Gail ( on December 25, 1999
Format: Paperback
I was told about this book in both a psychology class and in a Communication Between the Genders class, college classes composed mostly of women. During the semester, I was taken aback by my female classmates' intense, even brutal, anger at men and how that anger motivated their attitudes and behaviors. These women had little or no desire to discover ways to neutralize the tensions in the male-female combat zone, but preferred to blame their failings and frustrations on men. Post-divorce, I was not without my own anger, but I could pretty much well identify its causes. Their anger, I noticed, seemed driven by forces they could neither identify nor define. These observations compelled me to find honest answers. I wanted to understand, as objectively as possible, what had created the devastating rift between men and women, beyond the pat explanations espoused by the second wave of the Feminist Movement and the mass media. Sam Keen's book shed much light on the problem with the simple observation that men suffer, and are in these dire straits, because they have not freed themselves from their psychological and emotional bondage to women; they can never define themselves as separate beings so long as they "invest so much of their identity" in women. I am grateful to Keen for providing me this profound understanding and the experience of feeling true empathy for men. Just the same, as long as men choose to remain bonded in these ways to women, and so long as women [and for selfish gains, I might add] proudly wield the power they know they hold over men, no amount of empathy can change the status quo.
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47 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Fernando on June 29, 2009
Format: Paperback
I had high expectations on this book and to be fair, it delivered for the first 20 or so pages (just like other reviewers have mentioned). Keen gives a great insight; for a man to get in touch with his manhood he has to leave the world of WOMAN. WOMAN, refers to not any specific person but the mental idea or ideal that men devote entirely too much energy in antagonizing, fearing, impressing, etc. that elusive idea. By separating from the world of WOMAN, as I got from the reading, a man can begin to be by and for himself, unhindered by the abstract. That insight garners the book some credit.

Unfortunately, the book does not live up to the strong beginning. It weakens to a trickle with Keens' professorial lecturing and attention to the precise ideas that don't -in my view- work for men looking for their soul. For example, in the chapter relating to aggression, Keen expounds about how the "War System" has influenced all our human relationships; we want to get ahead, step over anyone who gets on our way and destroy our opponents. Really? Is that all there is to aggression? Right then it became obvious Keen has too narrow and ideological a view to help men find their Manhood.

Most importantly, the aggression issue is not properly addressed. Keen devotes several pages to what is wrong with war-like behavior and only, as an afterthought, adds a page at the end of the chapter on the survival value it has. So in essence, after lecturing non-stop about the evils of aggression he tells us that at some point we might need it. Most men reading books on masculinity, and I would underline this if I could, are looking for a justification and articulation of our fierceness, NOT blind destruction, but fierceness as a vital force.
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47 of 53 people found the following review helpful By JMack VINE VOICE on July 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
I read this book a few years back and I am in debt to its wisdom. It fact Sam Keen may also be indebt to me as I have given this book away as a gift at least a dozen times.
Keen looks at the changing role of men in society in this book. Men were the bread winners in families because that was the way it was supposed to be. With women expected to work, the male role has changed. All of the sudden, men(particularly the white male) has been blamed for many of the ills of society.
Keen explores where a man can find fulfillment in this modern world through roles in work, family, and sex. If you have ever asked yourself the question, "What makes a man, a real man?", this book will help to answer the question. No man should be without this book.
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52 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Adam Chen on October 20, 2003
Format: Paperback
What tells us we are men? Is it how we look on the outside? Is it the way we behave? Unfortunately, if you are looking for these questions, you might as well go away now, for this book is not meant to be read by ideologues who think they need an idea to know.
We have all tread the mass of upgrades to our lives called "women," hopping from one to the next without fulfillment. Some of us have also played the nice guy/poindexter role into night and day until our wallets broke and then we were left without anything. We have tried to be male in so many different ways, but there is one that outshines them all. It is the one that lies above the grave of impossibility.
In his excellent and thorough essay, Keen urges us at the end of the first chapter not to skirt through the book but to read carefully each passage. We've been stranded for too long on a desolate island, asking for attention. Our hearts and minds have been callously stupefied by our advances, and by our society and time, which have been of no help to us at all. Being manly doesn't mean we necessarily have to exaggerate our strength in order to *look* like a man. Instead, the prayer is that we might express something greater within ourselves and not be afraid of how manly we look to others.
One of the first things we must do, Sam says, is to challenge our misconceptions about WOMAN. This is "WOMAN" with all caps. She's the undying witch who comes to scare us, night after night, after we have fallen asleep. The little boy who fears the witch is still there has not left us, for we have not gotten over our very private concerns about who She is.
The quintessential journey into the heart, for a man, starts at the place where he begins to accept the uncertainty of his maleness.
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